Just five years ago the availability of sustainability and other cost calculators was scarce. These days, though, the scope of calculators has grown exponentially, ranging from calculators for specific equipment types to others designed to determine energy, water and total life cycle cost savings. They’ve also become more accurate.
For many, using calculators represents a first step in the equipment purchasing decision process, particularly as the number of energy- and water-saving models on the market continues to increase each year.
“We’re constantly working on adding to the calculators we have and working on new ones,” says David Zabrowski, director of engineering at the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) in San Ramon, Calif. “The intent is to keep adding calculators for different types of equipment as we move forward. Basically, when we have a new rebate category for what’s energy efficient, we will have a calculator to support that equipment.”
Life Cycle Cost Calculators
Life cycle cost calculators allow foodservice operators and their supply chain partners to compare the total operating costs of different pieces of foodservice equipment over the course of their working lives, with an emphasis on energy and, where applicable, water usage costs. As testing standards for energy efficiency and other operating characteristics have become more stringent, so have the calculators available for determining an equipment piece’s capabilities.
Determining total life cycle operating costs of equipment is already a challenge. The idea of the calculator is to help buyers hone in on those details in an easier way. NAFEM’s total life cycle cost calculator is a spreadsheet-based model that users can download from the association’s website at no cost. It’s an elaborate document covering many different aspects of an individual piece of foodservice equipment’s operating capabilities and costs that major chains and other operators use to make purchasing decisions when replacing an item or redesigning kitchen layouts, Zabrowski says.
“The NAFEM calculator is intended to be a little more detailed life cycle cost analysis that looks at installation costs, warranty information, preventative maintenance, number of service calls, disposal fees, training, and all the details from initial purchase through operation, including even decommission and disposal of the equipment,” Zabrowski says. “What we found is with these cost calculators, not everyone is going to be able to put in every detail, but what it does is allow operators to look at two brands of the same equipment for a detailed comparison.”
In addition, Zabrowski says, the calculator looks at different processes, such as comparisons between using griddles versus using broilers. “Restaurant chains use this to compare alternative cooking processes,” he says.
Calculators are available for different equipment types. This helps users make comparisons between brands. There is an FSTC calculator for combination ovens (gas and electric), convection ovens (gas and electric), conveyor ovens (gas only), fryers (electric, gas, large-vat), griddles (gas and electric), hot-holding cabinets, ice machines, gas rack ovens, refrigeration (glass-door and solid-door reach-in freezers and refrigerators), steamers (gas and electric), and underfired char-broilers.
How to Use the Calculators
The way the FSTC calculators work, Zabrowski says, is that you pull the calculator up on the page, and then plug in information where possible in major categories such as purchase price, repair costs, planned maintenance, utility operations, labor and disposal. Operators can collect this information by looking at the equipment spec sheets or through the particular manufacturer. Enter the information into the calculator and it will automatically compare the models’ performance, energy and operating costs with the baseline model (average energy efficiency) established by the FSTC and ASTM as part of a standards initiative. The results are printable as well.
“The calculators help compare major brands and can be a real shopping advantage. They also use data from lab testing to form rebate programs,” Zabrowski says. “But to better estimate the operating costs, you need to know how the equipment is used, how many pounds of food is cooked on it.”
For example, for the electric combi oven calculator some input options are number of pans, baseline shows 15 pans on the calculator; preheat energy; idle energy rate; convection mode cooking energy efficiency and steam mode cooking energy efficiency; water consumption; operating hours per day and per year; number of preheats per day; percentage of time in steam mode; pounds of food cooked per day, and then additional detailed information like maintenance costs and water/sewer costs per CCE.
“You don’t have to put all that information in,” Zabrowski says. “But the more information you have the more comprehensive results you’ll get.”
The challenge with these and all calculators arises if your model doesn’t quite match up with the baseline standards, six-pan oven versus four-pan oven, for example. But at the very minimum, even if not every single piece of information is available, users can compare between the minimum energy efficient level and economy grade appliance, Zabrowski says.
That can be at least $500 or more per year per appliance for certain equipment types. “If you have multiple fryers, and across multiple stores, that can really add up in savings,” Zabrowski says.
Zabrowski gives an example of how a major burger chain used both the FSTC and NAFEM calculators to make equipment purchasing decisions. The chain was considering whether to switch from a conveyor broiler to a flexible batch broiler — an appliance designed specifically by the chain. “The box conveyor broiler was running at a pretty high rate all the time,” Zabrowski says. “It had a very high throughput, but it wasn’t necessary to run at that high rate all day long. The chain came up with an alternative type of broiler that was more enclosed and which could cook a whole batch at once instead of one at a time and spit each sandwich out. And when it was not cooking, it would go into a standby mode to save energy.”
After testing and looking into the calculators to determine if the total cost for the new unit was worth it for the added energy savings, the chain found that, in fact, it was. The FSTC calculator is a good precursor for energy and sustainability cost savings for a more elaborate analysis of maintenance, service and other total life cycle costs determined by the NAFEM calculator, Zabrowski says. Numbers determined from the FSTC can be plugged into the more elaborate NAFEM calculator for a bigger picture analysis.
In another example, Zabrowski cites a franchise operation that was deciding on a new fryer package. The chain had been using four standard fryers, but was looking to introduce three veg package fryers. Instead of four 50-pound fryers, the chain went with a combination of two 70-pound fryers and one 50-pound fryer. Calculators showed that the new package dropped the overall shortening volume, but kept the cooking capacity the same while using less energy. “That meant lower oil costs, lower energy costs and even lower equipment costs,” Zabrowski says.
When to Replace Calculators
As a secondary NAFEM tool, available on the association’s website, is a When to Replace calculator that helps users determine when it might be time to purchase new equipment.
The calculator compares the annual maintenance costs year by year and if there is an increase it can be an indication the equipment is beginning to wear. The calculator also determines depreciation rates to project possible replacement times. Users enter the purchase price of the equipment, choose the depreciation rate, input yearly maintenance costs and service repairs, and if that value exceeds the value of the equipment, it’s time to replace.
“These calculators are more likely to be used by schools or other operators who buy equipment less frequently,” Zabrowski says. “We’ve talked about developing templates for different types to prefill some of the information, but that’s a challenge because everything is so different.”
Dishwasher and Spray Valve Calculators
The latest calculator in development is one for dishwashers, expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to Zabrowski. The calculator will calculate both energy and water use, including a total washing energy use test.
“Right now the Energy Star calculators only include standby energy,” Zabrowski says. “This new calculator will determine actual energy used in operation and compare that with operating costs.”
In a particularly useful addition, the calculator will also compare heat recovery models with ventless models — both energy-saving types among energy-efficient models. Just looking at a heat recovery dishwasher versus a ventless machine, it’s hard to know which might be better for an operation and which might save more costs over the long haul. With these calculators, buyers will be able to more accurately determine what’s best for them.
The FSTC also has a calculator that compares one hot water using device versus another, such as dipper wells. Users can also input leaks for a more comprehensive analysis. “It’s a great tool for estimating the cost of hot water use,” Zabrowski says.
Outdoor Air Load Calculators
Outdoor air load calculators allow users to estimate the energy load associated with heating and cooling replacement air for a kitchen, Zabrowski says. “You pick a location, determine what your makeup air rate is, plug that in, and the calculator will tell you the heating and cooling energy use for that location.”
These types of calculators are used mainly for estimating the savings from going with a more efficient ventilation system, or by retrofitting an existing hood system with demand control ventilation in the form of variable speed fans. This is helpful for buyers who may be weary about purchasing a completely new system but want to see what kind of savings are possible through smaller upgrades, Zabrowski says.
Energy Star Calculators
Energy Star has its own set of calculators, but those will be updated in the near future, according to Zabrowski.
The Energy Star calculators are a downloadable spreadsheet-based tool that shows a simple comparison for energy use between Energy Star-rated equipment and a non-Energy Star model per category.
“It’s less customizable and intended to be a simple, easy to use comparison,” Zabrowski says. The only challenge is, and this is what Energy Star is working on, is it’s difficult to change comparable values in the spreadsheet — there is no interface to make it easy to do to that.”
NAFEM Sustainability Calculator
NAFEM, working in conjunction with ASTM International, has developed a standard method for manufacturers, operators, dealers, consultants and other members of the supply chain to use when defining the environmental impact of foodservice equipment.
This Sustainability Calculator, a spreadsheet model meant to work in conjunction with NAFEM’s Life Cycle/Cost of Ownership calculator, identifies specific environmental factors, awards points to the corresponding factors and calculates a total score. This information can then be used for LEED projects and other sustainable building projects.
The calculator goes beyond just water and energy analysis to look at the type of materials used in construction, packaging, recycled content, greenhouse gas usage and other related “green” factors. “The calculator tries to rate the appliance from a total environmental carbon impact,” says Zabrowski, who assisted in the development of this calculator. “The goal of this is to standardize the type of information presented by manufacturers for LEED or green projects,” he says.